Fancy a Chamomile Fizz? Why no-, low- and faux-booze cocktails are shaking things up

Gone are the days of afterthought mocktails – bartenders are putting no and low-alcohol creations at the front of their menus.

Gone are the days of afterthought mocktails – bartenders are putting no and low-alcohol creations at the front of their menus. Photo: Getty

Let’s be honest, in years gone by the non-drinkers’ option of a “mocktail” was not just boring, but usually sickly sweet.

But times are changing, tastes are changing and so are at least some Australians’ drinking habits.

There’s been a gradual decline in alcohol consumption in the past five years, while months of moderation such as FebFast and Ocsober have become fashionable. Tastes have become more sophisticated.

There are zero-alcohol beers (that actually taste good) and lower-alcohol wines (ditto), and now the flourishing art of cocktails has spread to low-, no- and faux-alcoholic beverages.

At one of Melbourne’s swankiest cocktail bars, The Everleigh, a new list of cocktails is catering to what bar manager David Molyneux says is  higher demand.

“We do a lot of half-serve martinis and half-serve Manhattans, single-shot highballs like a cuba libre,” Molyneux told The New Daily.

“It’s a full-size drink but only one serve of alcohol.

“We also have a rotating list of non-alcoholic drinks. The Damascus Fizz, for example, with lemon, salted apricots, coconut cream and orange juice served tall – kind of like a creaming soda texture – tastes really complex. It tastes as though it might have alcohol.

“Ten years ago the culture of ordering a non-alcoholic drink was, ‘It’s not one for the staff to care about that much’, but just because someone doesn’t want to drink alcohol doesn’t mean they don’t want a good experience.”

Molyneux believes one aspect is people watching their health, but it’s also driven by taste and a desire for quality.

“No one likes to wake up with a hangover and well-made alcohols are less likely to have that effect,” he said.

“We use top quality spirits and well-made local sodas. Everything is juiced to order.”

At South Melbourne’s Lûmé, famed for its edgy, high-end fine-dining menu (melaleuca-smoked duck, fermented black bean, macadamia milk), drinks are just as creative as the food and often booze-free.

“We’re selling as many non-alcoholic drinks as cocktails or wine,” restaurant manager Ilanit Bard said.

At Lûmé in Melbourne, the drinks are as experimental as the food. Photo: Supplied

Bard believes bartenders are starting to think like chefs.

“(They’re using) different techniques to provide a bouquet of flavours and finesse in a liquid shape,” Bard said.

At the hip PS40 bar in Sydney, they call it “a culinary approach” and the menu has a generous number of inventive NA cocktails. Their Zero Proof Paloma – 11 Seedlip Spice spirit, PS grapefruit, gentian, verjuice and olive – is a typically complex in flavour and totally booze-free.

Lûmé’s zero-proof program includes a negroni, using a distilled spirit from ALTD Spirits, an Australian company specialising in non-alcoholic botanical spirits that are sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan friendly.

“We also also have a faux saké, and our

Chamomile Fizz, made from carbonated chamomile, sage and wattleseed, has the fine bubbles of a champagne and a briochy /nutty character, but without the morning hangover.”

Bartenders – and those shaking and stirring at home – are being helped along by the availability of non-alcoholic spirits and mixers.

UK-based Seedlip produces “the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits” and uses spices, peels, barks and herbs. Their range includes the NOgroni, a ready-mixed take on the classic Italian aperitif, as well as complex no-alcohol spirits.

At one of Melbourne’s newest bars, Byrdi, a coffee-through-to-late-night-cocktails venue, master mixologist and award-winning bar owner Luke Whearty has replaced “shaken not stirred” with fermented, smoked, evaporated, carbonated and more. The often science-lab geekery makes for some amazing cocktails, many low or no alcohol.   

Their not-mezcal highball blends poached, smoked, dehydrated and distilled Yarra Valley pear with sparkling pear soda – it’s just one example on the list.

This trend is not just in Australia. It’s happening overseas as well, with serious options for those drinking less. In New York – traditionally cocktail central – no-booze bars have been a thing for a while.

Even Irish drinkers are heading the call. In May a completely alcohol-free bar, The Virgin May, opened in Dublin.

Australia may not be quite ready for that yet, but it might just be a matter of time.

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.